HARDBALL….Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe reports that the White House is taking steps to rein in those pesky JAG lawyers who think that Guantanamo detainees deserve something at least remotely resembling a fair hearing:
The Bush administration is pushing to take control of the promotions of military lawyers, escalating a conflict over the independence of uniformed attorneys who have repeatedly raised objections to the White House’s policies toward prisoners in the war on terrorism.
….Retired Major General Thomas Romig, the Army’s top JAG from 2001 to 2005, called the proposal an attempt “to control the military JAGs” by sending a message that if they want to be promoted, they should be “team players” who “bow to their political masters on legal advice.”
It “would certainly have a chilling effect on the JAGs’ advice to commanders,” Romig said. “The implication is clear: without [the administration’s] approval the officer will not be promoted.”
You will be unsurprised to learn that this is a revival of a policy first proposed in the early 90s by — of course — Dick Cheney, David Addington, and William Haynes. Savage says that the Senate Armed Services Committee forced Cheney to back down the first time, but now he’s back to give it another try.
Haynes, by the way, is currently the Defense Department General Counsel, a political appointment. He’s also the guy who caused Morris Davis, chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, to resign his job. (Note: that’s the chief prosecutor, not some effete, terror-loving defense attorney. The prosecutor resigned because the deck was stacked too firmly in the prosecution’s direction.) If you need your memory refreshed, here’s Morris in the LA Times a few days ago:
I resigned because of two memos signed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England that placed the chief prosecutor — that was me — in a chain of command under Defense Department General Counsel William J. Haynes. Haynes was a controversial nominee for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, but his nomination died in January 2007, in part because of his role in authorizing the use of the aggressive interrogation techniques some call torture.
I had instructed the prosecutors in September 2005 that we would not offer any evidence derived by waterboarding, one of the aggressive interrogation techniques the administration has sanctioned. Haynes and I have different perspectives and support different agendas, and the decision to give him command over the chief prosecutor’s office, in my view, cast a shadow over the integrity of military commissions. I resigned a few hours after I was informed of Haynes’ place in my chain of command.
The Military Commissions Act provides a foundation for fair trials, but some changes are clearly necessary. I was confident in full, fair and open trials when Gen. Altenburg was the convening authority and Brig. Gen. Tom Hemingway was his legal advisor. Collectively, they spent nearly 65 years in active duty, and they were committed to ensuring the integrity of military law. They acted on principle rather than politics.
The first step, if these truly are military commissions and not merely a political smoke screen, is to take control out of the hands of political appointees like Haynes and Crawford and give it back to the military.
Bush, Cheney, and Addington obviously have exactly the opposite view.